While companies have talked about HR transformation for years, the Coronavirus pandemic accelerated this transformation literally overnight. COVID turned the global workforce into a furloughed and unemployed diaspora with companies shutting stores, stopping manufacturing, and going bankrupt. Yet, many industries such as shipping, financial services, grocery, and healthcare were able to pivot in all areas to keep locations open, maintain worker safety, and continue to hire new employees.
During the initial days of the pandemic our company realized we had an ideal product to those industries still hiring. The product gave companies a standard, measurable process while enabling high-touch interactions remotely. Our goal was to communicate this as aggressively as possible while maintaining an understanding, human approach to both companies and candidates struggling through the difficult time.
We launched a free trial campaign of our product in one week. The trial fell into place quickly because...
The next several weeks were a blur of activity. The trial generated over 300 accounts in 13 weeks. Every department was busy onboarding and troubleshooting. Ten weeks into the program, we began to close free trial business.
Once business began to close, we began asking ourselves questions… Why did some free trial account close and others did not? What were the key indicators of activation? Were there similarities among the free trial accounts that closed? Were conversion rates, activation rates, and win rates consistent?
During our analysis, we uncovered several challenges: there was no consistent process across departments, no unified sales approach, and no single data repository. One team was overwhelmed while another was waiting for prospect sign ups. The analysis taught us three important lessons:
Improving the Solution
Applying Lean Startup methodology, we reframed the free trial program as an experiment. Our hypotheses were:
The Marketing team had the core capabilities to own and run the free trial experiment. I volunteered to own process. Once agreed upon, we defined the free trial KPIs, then built the plan and team to execute the second phase. The KPIs included:
One Week to a Streamlined Process
The Marketing team began by by making two major changes. First, working with the product development team, a product change eliminated a manual step of the process. Second, Marketing designed and created an automated Pardot nurture sequence that replaced the manual Customer Success process. Customer Success time was then freed up to focus on client responsibilities rather than dilute their time on unqualified prospects.
The Marketing Communications team wrote all email nurture communications, online ads, and landing pages. We used landing page tracking tools to understand visitor actions. We launched the new, completed process to Sales and Client Success within one week of taking ownership. Once launched, we built a weekly KPI report, distributed across the company, which improved transparency and doubled as a Sales prospecting list.
Second Cohort Shows Improved Results
We measured our activities daily and weekly. But, it was the 10-week cohort analysis that enabled us to compare our changes to the first 10-week cohort. We found that the redesigned process improved our KPIs:
These notable improvements proved our hypotheses that a single “owner” could move faster and drive greater change than “collective” ownership. Eliminating steps in the process also drove greater velocity through free trial sign up and usage. The updated process also drove pipeline during a tough sales quarter. At the time of this writing 40% of the sales pipeline was directly attributable to the revised free trial process.
The redesigned process improved KPIs...
450% increase in free-trial sign up conversion rates
88% increase in three-day activation rate
Chronicle of my career focused on in brand equity, integrated communications, client acquisition, and client retention strategies.
Read about how the Lean Startup methodology was used to to develop and launch a free trial that drove activation, pipeline, and closed deals.
Read about a go-to-market playbook that drives clarity within the company, transparency about the strategy, and a willingness to continually improve.
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